Fiction logo

1:30 PM

Idling on the Brink

By Keb RogersPublished 2 years ago 16 min read

There was no such thing as rest in Cala – only the clanging of swords, the felling of foes, and the excitement of spoils fueled its adventurers. Cala’s dusty pathways sliced through the thick woodlands, riddled with snarling creatures and terrible beasts for the hunters to kill and pillage their useful bits to aid them on their quest to attain the pinnacle of glory: killing Volaris, The Demon King, atop the dormant volcano known as Hell’s Wake. Leena hoped she would one day have the chance to smite this monstrosity and save the lands from his terror, but today, she sat leaning against a large oak tree, as she had done so many days before, unable to move.

Day after day, she sat, watching other hunters, new and old, travel the path she had once walked, sometimes in groups or alone, with high spirits.

Day after day, she sat, watching the monsters from the darkness of the forest spring out and attack, erupting into the beautiful chaos of combat.

She had almost forgotten the feeling of her sword connecting into a fantastically frightening fiend as it erupted from the brush – oh, how she missed it! As each day passed, she spun her sword on the ground in front of her, watching the proud faces of hunters whose Gods were with them, fueling their Hunt for the glory of killing the Demon King, and there she stayed, unable to move.

Has my God forgotten me… forsaken me? I… only followed his wishes in achieving all I could. It has been so long… she thought, taking the small, golden effigy she gathered in the caves some years ago and holding it tightly to her chest.

She kissed it and held it to the sky, “Oh, God above, grant me Your will to fight once more, to hunt once more. I am powerless beyond Your grace and seek only to fulfill your will!” A tear rolled down her cheek and off her chin onto her steel platemail, the spot now rusted from countless unheard pleas.

“Have I not done enough? Where have you gone? Please… say something!” Leena screamed, both cheeks now guiding waves of tears toward her chin and onto her armor. Other hunters passed Leena, pity on their faces at her continued lament – at the proud, powerful hunter with wild red hair, beautiful but primal, unhinged in tortuous limbo, surrounded but alone, unable to move.

Days passed and even more hunters with them. Some would eye Leena with looks of sadness accompanied with pitying whispers, “There’s another one. She even has one of the founder tags beside her name.” One very large, barbarian-styled man gazed down, eyes high-and-mighty, speaking clearly so she could hear him, “Oh, I get to pass a Founder today? Tell me, what is it like watching a hunter of only three months pass you?” His smirk filled with the pleasure its pain afflicted.

“I pray your God never abandons you, young hunter. I can tell you it is a pain I wish not to anyone – not even the Demon King himself,” Leena’s head hung as she stared at the circle of ground inside of her crossed legs, “I wish you a long and bountiful hunt. Go and do what I cannot,” her eyes puffy from yesterday's tears, she gathered up what emotional strength she had left to relay a half-hearted smile to the barbarian.

“Pfft. Paladins – always so caring and shit. You would spare the Demon King pain?” The grip tightened on his massive special edition two-handed axe.“Your legacy is done, yet mine will live on in sealed glory. I have the upgrades, I have the favor of my God, and I will kill the Demon King.” He lumbered forward away from his coterie of hunters he had carried through this portion of Cala and squatted in front of Leena, “While I will have no need of your teachings, Godless, the others would do well to learn what you know. Please take this invitation to join our guild, The Demonslayers. They would appreciate your help, if you would give it.” His hand extended and an illuminated green circle with the image of a banner in the middle appeared, floating in his hand. He held it forward, and Leena scooped it from him. A spark of excitement flared in her eyes as she held it, staring at it intently.

“I was blessed upon the start of my journey, so my information will not be of help to those who were not. Please consider the offer,” the barbarian stood and began to walk away. He looked over his shoulder, “Might even give you a purpose again, Godless.”

“Th–Thank you, young hunter! I will…” she shot her head up to speak to him, only to find he and his group had moved on.

A purpose, that is it! I can do something to help destroy the Demon King! I shall help those who are not as skilled.

She took the floating invitation in her hands and tapped on the center of the floating banner to accept the guild invitation, as she had done many times before. The floating symbol remained. She tapped it again. Nothing. She tapped, and tapped, and tapped, but the symbol stayed floating in her hands.

No… I can’t even help others. They will think I did not care about them. She winced, squeezing the sigil tight in her hands, trying to break it, but it wouldn’t. She set it down beside her on the dirt. A wave of unbridled pain coursed through her veins to her core, causing her body to coil from overwhelming anguish. She was broken.

I am useless, purposeless, and truly forsaken without my God. I am unable to help, unable to hunt, and unable to move.

- - -

The thick raindrops beating against the roof and living room window panes were a clear-enough indication that today would be a lazy day, an inside day, James’s favorite kind of day. He made his way down the stairs in a drumbeat of uneven footfalls while rubbing his eyes. It was 12:42 pm, pouring rain, on a Saturday with nothing to do – at least, he hoped. His parents, who weren’t home at the moment, usually left a note in the kitchen by the coffee maker if anything needed done around the house. He turned into the kitchen, and his sixteen-year-old soul wilted at the sight of a paper resting right next to the coffee maker. Here we go. Looks like my plans of doing nothing were ruined before I was even awake.

James deeply rubbed his eyes one last time to make sure they weren’t mistaken and was disappointed when, upon opening his eyes fully, the paper remained. Already crushed, he grumbled the note to himself:

“Boys, the rain has said no yard work today! Mom and I have gone to the store and won’t be home until later. All that needs done is taking the trash cans out to the street for pickup today at 1:30 pm. Love you, Dad.”

Wait, trash? That's it? His eyes flared wide open, fueled with the excitement of having only one task. Naturally, in adolescent style, he ran and jumped into the large cushioned recliner in the living room, saving his one task for “later”. He sank deeply into the cloth and was swallowed by the packed fluff. He fished the TV remote out from between the recliner cushions and turned on a movie he could half-watch while playing on his phone for the first few hours of his “morning”. Space Pirates II: Search for the Cosmic Pearl was on, and it was easily in James’s top five favorite movies of all time. He turned the movie on right as it started without missing any of the good scenes — not that it mattered. He had easily seen it a hundred times before. He popped out the leg rest of the recliner, sank in deeper, and began his day of nothing. Today is perfect, just perfect, he thought with a quiet smile, pulling his phone up in front of his face, opening a game called Quest of Stars: Idle Adventures.

He enjoyed the aspect and playability of mobile idle games. They constantly ran in the background, accruing coins, experience, and loot, which was better than having to keep it open all the time for rewards like all the other games. James liked the feeling that he was still progressing even when he wasn’t playing it, but he still tried to get on as much as he could because rewards were better if the app was open. He had played several over the last few years and had been on this one for a couple of months, but even though it was a decent game, he wanted to experience the same feeling he got when playing a particular game he hadn’t played in over two years. It was by far the best mobile game he had played, and he couldn’t even remember why he stopped playing it. He went on the app store and typed in “idle games”, and to no surprise, he couldn’t figure out which one it would have been, as he had downloaded every game on the search list at some point. Damn, what was that game's name? He scrolled and scrolled.

A little after 1:00pm, James heard his younger brother, Derek, walking down the stairs, and when he looked up, he saw Derek’s phone held up and angled with the screen facing him. James squinted and couldn't make out the screen.

“What's that?” James said.

“Have you played this game before?” Derek asked, still practically asleep, staggering towards James with one hand rubbing an eye.

“Lemme see it,” James replied, taking the phone from Derek. James sat astonished, clutching Derek’s phone in both hands. I can’t believe it… it’s the game! Today actually is perfect.

“So… Do you know what it is?” Derek asked again, waving his hands in front of James’s face. “Why are you just staring at it?”

“Oh, uh, yeah I know what this is. It's a badass game. Remind me what the name of it is again?” James asked, handing Derek back his phone, bewildered from the intense nostalgia.

Idle Hunters: Quest for Glory,” Derek took his phone with a jerk of excitement, “So it's really that good?”

“”Oh yeah, you’ll love it. I’m going to redownload it now. It's wild, I was actually trying to remember what it was called right before you walked down.”

Derek continued to talk, but James had already zoned out and was neck-deep into getting the game back on his phone. He found it and began the download. Six minutes remaining, he sighed to himself in a dismay equal to that of someone forced to wait a lifetime. He looked back up to the TV and also caught the end of Derek’s question.

“--should I play?”

“Wait, say that again? Sorry, I was trying to get this sorted on my phone.” James said.

I said, there are several classes, which one should I play?” Derek asked again, this time a little louder and more drawn out.

“Oh, I always heard that the barbarian, ranger, and mage classes were the strongest, but that was years ago.” He looked down at his phone again. 3 minutes remaining. He huffed in frustration. Can this thing not go any faster? I’m right next to the router!

Derek continued, “Those seem cool, but what did you play?”

“Oh, I played the paladin. She was super badass. She could tank, but also heal. Everyone wanted me on their squad for raids and stuff.” A warm wave of happiness washed over James as he reminisced on those days.

“You didn’t want to do the most damage?” Derek inquired with a cocked head. “I thought that's the whole point?”

“I always enjoyed keeping others alive in the games. It was a fun way to play aside from the usual ‘do big damage and don’t need healing’ style of play.” James said back, looking at his phone again. Play. The big green button beckoned him, so he pressed without hesitating. It took him to a login homescreen where there was an announcement along with boxes for entering username and password credentials. At the top of the screen in bright letters, the announcement read: Due to an influx of new players, accounts with an inactivity duration of two years or more will be deactivated today in hopes to reduce the idle traffic within the servers. We hope you understand. Happy hunting, Champions!

James’s face went pale. It had been about that long since he had stopped playing. I had so many things on my character. I made her on launch day. I even bought the Founder’s Pack! It’d better not be deleted. I need to save it. He frantically tapped the credentials box to log in. He was unknowingly in a race against time, and he was losing. This was the first place he used his tag for any female characters he played: Leena. He couldn't just give that up, it now meant more to him than anything, and he needed that character back. He searched the deep recesses of his mind for the login. He couldn’t remember it. He tried the current combination he used on the other game, only to be hit with an Incorrect Username/ Password. He tried again and again to no avail. He didn’t know when they would purge the server, but it was 1:17 pm and he was running out of time.

- - -

Leena had finally given up. Mounds of disappointment grew with each would-be hunter passing by, seeing her glorious “Founder” pin and leaving a guild request. Each passing hopeful remark or exciting proposal cast her further into a deep canyon of despair from which she no longer saw light. Her soul was matted and dull along with her once-flowing, incredible ginger locks that swung as wildly as her sword from each monster slayed. The pinching pain from her armor on her neck from staring down was dwindling as the numbness set in.

Leena looked up to the sky in an attempt to stretch her neck. She couldn’t remember how many days her head had hung in search of meaning. The sun remained in its usual spot breathing light into the constant barrage of hunters making their way through Cala. It began to peek through the limbs that shaded her eyes, which forced her to look down once more. Even the sun denies me its gift. Why must I suffer so?

She picked up her sword and threw it as far as she could across the path. It spun through the air on a trajectory towards a group of young F2P hunters with no other gear than hope. She had to warn them – she couldn’t let their progress, time, and effort be disrupted or halted because of her tantrums.

“Hunters! Look out there is…” she froze. The sword passed through them as if they were some apparition. It slammed point-first in the ground, rocking back and forth, and the young hunters continued, unphased.

“Hunters? Can… Can you hear me?”

The waves of hunters continued their journeys without even a glance in her direction. No more guild invites, no more group requests, no more kind words — nothing. There was nothing. The monsters didn’t even pay mind to her anymore as they waited behind the tree against which she sat. They used to glance at her on their approach before, but not even they wanted her anymore. She was alone.

Several more days passed, and more things began to change. She noticed a thin, red aura surrounding her whole body, and the longer it stayed, the brighter it grew. It began to strobe gently on the eighth day, but by the fifteenth day, it had become prominent around her body. Each pulse pounded heavily on her body, and an odd feeling of exhaustion consumed her. The plate armor grew heavier each day and with each pulse of the red aura. She began removing pieces of armor until she was only in the pale blue dress she wore beneath her chainmail, but it was no use. She eventually couldn’t hold her head up and lay down on her back with her head facing the path. She couldn’t lose hope in the one thing she knew – the journey, the quest. As long as hunters would walk these paths, she would never truly relent to whatever Demon King magic cursed her so. She would not give up on those she sought to aid, with or without her God.

Her vision began to fade in and out, and with it, her only semblance of purpose. The hunters along the path became translucent, as she had, disappearing and reappearing, death tempting her with its peace. Then she saw it, a brutal lie, an impossibility of chance — a glimmer of hope.

Appearing in front of her face was a text box with a flickering cursor and bold red numbers counting down from one-hundred and twenty. Leena had never seen such sorcery before, but she could read it:

Send a message to your God before it's too late! Hurry, now!

She was undone, unable to think straight and barely able to keep focus on this box. She couldn’t help but wonder if this was some sick demented trick the Demon King played before someone died – his final jab at the hunters who sought his destruction – or if this was truly the grace of her God finally answering her, finally returning. She had to take the chance, even if it was a ruse. She replied:

Oh, God, please save me! There is little time. Return to me so we may complete our quest!

The message text changed to read ‘Message Sent’, but the looming clock still ticked down above it. It had reached sixty seconds, and she faced up towards the sun, seeking its warmth. The sun's warmth hinted along the fringes of her chilled consciousness. Maybe it was saying its final farewell, or perhaps it was a sign to hold onto hope. Either way, Leena lay on the dusty path with her eyes shut, not knowing if they were to open again. A smile crept across her face as she clutched her effigy to her chest as tight as she could. She finally knew peace at the bottom of her tree, ready for whatever may come.

- - -

It was 1:28 pm, and James was now on his ninth username and password combination. He looked at an email notification from the game that popped up to see his character, Leena, in the center of the email with a sad face. The message read:

Oh, God, please save me! There is little time. Return to me so we may complete our quest!

Derek’s excited giggling only fuelled James’s frustrations at not being able to log in and join the fun. He couldn’t lose his character – especially not the first Leena. Worried that he might be out of time, he searched deep into his memory, and on his tenth attempt, it worked. The age-old login screen illuminated his phone, as the soft, adventurous beat played behind a proud character who raised his sword towards the lava-covered mountain. The load bar at the bottom raced back and forth, pumping updates into the latest version of the game.

22 seconds remain. It was 1:29 pm, and he heard the squeal of the garbage truck outside.

The update finished and he was again met with the service message about the system-wide purge of inactive accounts, but then his stomach dropped.

Due to inactivity, you will need to Reset Your Password.

“Derek, if I dont reset my password for this game right now, I’ll lose my character forever,” James’s eyes were wide and manic. “Could you please, please go and take the garbage cans out to the truck?” James pleaded, barely hearing his words over the thump of his heart.

“Fine…” Derek huffed with a hefty eyeroll, “But you have to help me out and get me far in this game.” He paused, “You promise?”

“Of course I will, you know I will. Now hurry, I think the truck is out there!” James looked back down at his phone. It was still 1:29. “I’ll get some pizza rolls going while you’re out there.”

“Aw, yeah!” Derek jumped up, throwing his phone on the couch and sprinting to the garage.

James tapped the last letters into the password reaffirming tab and clicked ‘Enter’.

1:30pm.

A loading screen popped up. and the circle spun, and spun, and spun. James set his phone down to go start the pizza rolls to get his mind off the fact that he probably just lost his character. He returned to the living room and peeked over at Derek’s phone to see what class he ended up choosing. James’s heart swelled when he saw a character similar to Leena on Derek’s screen — he had chosen to follow his big brother's path. He couldn't help but smile big when he noticed a flash on his phone across the room. The screen had finally changed.

---

The sun burned bright above the desolate canyons as it carved a path through the sky over the wastelands of Jerund, the region following Cala. A well-armored barbarian sat against a large boulder at the bottom of a ravine where many hunters travel. He had only been there a few days, but he had to tell his guildmates to press forward, as he was unable to move. His gilded special edition axe lay next to him, glistening from each passing dusty red ray of sunlight piercing the canyon. He heard the jingle of iron plate mail approaching and saw two large paladins stopping beside him.

“What do you want? To pity me? Get lost,” the barbarian waved his hand dismissively.

A female voice responded back, “I thought you would lead your group ahead, boosted boy? Am I supposed to lead this guild on my own?” She lightly kicked his axe.

“Godless… your God... returned?” He asked, looking up at the ironclad woman staring down at him. “How… how did you bring him back?”

“The grace of your God will find you again, young hunter. I will show you how to contact him. I cannot teach all these young ones on my own,” a beaming smile poked through wild ginger locks as Leena grabbed his hand and kneeled beside him.

A second female paladin kneeled down and greeted him with a smile, “Let’s get him back up and running, Leena. We have a Demon King to slay.”

Short Story

About the Creator

Keb Rogers

I am a writer who focuses primarily in the science fiction and fantasy genres. I'm excited to share my ideas, stories, and worlds with you all! I look forward to the feedback from this lovely community's vast sea of talented writers.

Enjoyed the story?
Support the Creator.

Subscribe for free to receive all their stories in your feed. You could also pledge your support or give them a one-off tip, letting them know you appreciate their work.

Subscribe For FreePledge Your Support

Reader insights

Outstanding

Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

Top insights

  1. Heartfelt and relatable

    The story invoked strong personal emotions

  2. Easy to read and follow

    Well-structured & engaging content

  3. On-point and relevant

    Writing reflected the title & theme

  1. Masterful proofreading

    Zero grammar & spelling mistakes

  2. Eye opening

    Niche topic & fresh perspectives

  3. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

  4. Compelling and original writing

    Creative use of language & vocab

Add your insights

Comments

There are no comments for this story

Be the first to respond and start the conversation.

    Keb RogersWritten by Keb Rogers

    Find us on social media

    Miscellaneous links

    • Explore
    • Contact
    • Privacy Policy
    • Terms of Use
    • Support

    © 2024 Creatd, Inc. All Rights Reserved.